L-R: Member, Steering Committee, Nigerian Shipowners Association (NISA), Captain Taiwo Akinpelumi; Member, Steering Committee, Nigerian Shipowners Association (NISA), Engr. Josiah Wasa; Managing Director, Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), Mohammed Bello-Koko; Chairman, Steering Committee, Nigerian Shipowners Association (NISA), Prince Sunday Omatseye; Member, Steering Committee, Nigerian Shipowners Association (NISA), Ayorinde Adedoyin., Nigerian Shipowners Association (NISA),
The Acting Managing Director, Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), Mohammed Bello-Koko has charged members of the Nigerian Shipowners Association (NISA) to present a strong common front that the government can reckon with.
Bello-Koko said this when the steering committee of NISA paid him a courtesy visit while pledging the Authority’s commitment to maintain the existing concessions that were supposed to be enjoyed by shipowners.
Addressing an observation bothering on the training of seafarers which was raised by one of the members of the Association, Engr. Josiah Wasa, the Managing Director, shared his experience when he and his team visited Athens, Greece where he met with the minister who expressed his view of Nigeria seafarers not having the opportunity to carry out their sea time experience onboard vessel on time.
In addition, he noted that the Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi in his bid to reinstate the opportunities which should be enjoyed by the shipowners, has directed that Nigeria Liquefied Natural Gas (NLNG) especially, Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) should not allow foreign vessels into the country again.
He also charged them to make use of the Cabotage law which gives shipowners an edge over foreign vessels calling at the country.
“You are welcome to Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) and thank you for your congratulatory messages.
“In the past few weeks, we were in a meeting in Athens, Greece being the country with the highest number of ships in the world.
And what the Minister and other people kept talking about there was the provision of sea time for our seafarers who have graduated from MAN, Oron, and other maritime academies.
“What they said in Greece is that the problem was not what school or whatever the seafarers attended. But first of all, are the schools accredited by international agencies like International Maritime Organization (IMO) and other international agencies?
“So the first thing is that whatever training we are giving these seafarers must be from accredited institutions. And it is until these seafarers are trained by accredited institutions, that is when Greece would look at the possibility of providing sea time training for Nigerians.
“As an association, I think you also need to look at that.
NIMASA came forward being majorly in charge of financing training, however, you can partner as well.
“And at the meeting, what we kept emphasizing was that there is a huge gap in terms of participation of Nigerians. That is a major employment opportunity that Nigeria has missed.
Yes, the reason might be that we don’t have many vessels flying Nigerian flags and that gap needs to be closed and what does the law say?
“The law says for one to own a shipping line or whatever, 60% of it must be owned by Nigeria and we are thinking why not amend the thing to 10 or 20 percent because Nigerians are not able to bring the 60% up till now for financial reasons and other limitations.
“But probably because everybody has not come together and that’s why we encourage you the Association to do the best you can to bring people together, pull funds together and have funds that would enable them to get further facilities from other banks too to float their vessels. Shipping is not cheap, even if you charter.
“And the Minister of Transportation has been saying that Nigeria Liquefied Natural Gas (NLNG) should not be allowed especially NNPC to bring foreign vessels.
The law says if it’s Nigerians that have the vessels, they have some benefits to gain.
“The matter has got to National Assembly and the association needs to also follow it up.
“Meanwhile, it is not about saying you must give us the opportunities, the question is, do you have the vessels? Do you have the capacity? Do you have the strength? Do you have the technical know-how? Do you have a relationship with people outside the country? If you are able to do that, it shows all of a sudden, there would be tens of thousands of opportunities to employ Nigerians.
And that’s why training in accredited institutions should be prioritised; but unfortunately, most people are actually scared of going for the training.
“This is because they are contemplating whether there would be jobs after the rigorous training.
We have so many seafarers out there who are done with the training but no sea time experience.
“NPA would work with you to assist in that aspect of training seafarers.
We have a training school that is basically training more of our pilots.
And we have written to NIMASA to get accreditation for other courses there.
The whole complex which was abandoned has been rehabilitated and we can train up to 150 persons at a go.
There’s a cafeteria there and we are working seriously to advance its courses.
However, for now, we are concentrating on training our own staff and a few other agencies have shown interest and started sending their members to us.
“You need to take advantage of the cabotage law.
That’s really important.
“That law gives a lot of opportunities and it also limits the participation of foreign companies and nationals in doing business.
Now, you have the law that gives the powers of what you should do in terms of funding.
That’s why I keep saying you need to put force together; you need to have a strong front.
“Whatever concessions that are being given to ships flying Nigeria flag would remain.
But those concessions should be noted that they are given to encourage.
And the concession we are giving does not trickle down to the user of your service.
That means you are charging as much as others are charging.
And if that is the case, what’s the essence of giving you those concessions.
You understand, but whatever concession has been given by NPA, we don’t intend to remove it.
We review them and see if they are still existing. And if they are not, we’ll fix it.
“For the NIMAREX, we’ll be interested; we’ll support you in any way we can.
You are stakeholders in the maritime industry just as we are.
Your success in that is also our priority which shows that we are also achieving our mandate,” Bello Koko further assured.
Speaking earlier, the Chairman, Steering Committee, NISA, Prince Sunday Omatseye appreciated the continual support the association had enjoyed from the authority during its previous existence while seeking all the required support from the agency.
“We are the Nigerian Shipowners Association (NISA) and we’ve been in existence for quite some time.
In short, NISA comprises Nigerians who own vessels, tugboats, tankers operating in the Nigerian waters.
“We always sit down with the government to see how we can go forward in the Industry.
But due to one or two reasons, we’ve been out of the system for quite some time now.
“But we want to assure you that we are back and we are back with full force.
A Steering Committee has been set up which I happen to be its chairman.
It is expected to last for six months after which an election would be conducted in the association.
“So, The reason why we are here today is actually to introduce ourselves and to tell you that we are back and we are ready to work with Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA).
“Actually, before now Nigerian shipowners normally have some concessions.
For instance, the port charges were given like 30%, and also Nigerian ships are allowed to come in immediately they come, unlike foreign vessels that might be kept waiting for a while.
There were some priorities given to Nigerian Shipowners.
“These are what we are still going to come back and discuss to see how we can move ahead.
NPA usually plays a very important role in our industry with the shipowners too,” Prince Omatseye pointed out.